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Beginning of Working Meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

August 10, 2008

Gorki, Moscow Region

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DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Vladimir Vladimirovich, we agreed that the Government will take steps to address and deal with the consequences of Georgiaĺs aggression against South Ossetia.

You have just come back from North Ossetia. I would like to hear your assessment of the situation there, the situation with refugees, the problems that have arisen as a result of this tragedy.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I can tell you in detail what is being done to take in refugees and ensure that normal life continues in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania.

But first of all Iĺd like to share my impressions from meeting with the refugees. I have to say frankly that it has all left me with very sad feelings. For a start, these people have found themselves in a very difficult situation today. For the most part these are women, elderly people and children. They have seen more than enough tragedy and things are not easy for them now. But what caught my attention most of all is that what they spoke about, the episodes they recounted, go far beyond the normal limits of military operations. It seems to me that we are seeing elements of a kind of genocide against the Ossetian people.

I think it would be the correct course of action, Dmitry Anatolyevich, for you to instruct the Military Prosecutorĺs Office to document episodes of this type, all the more so as most of the population of South Ossetia are citizens of the Russian Federation. The things I heard about today from the refugees are clearly crimes against the civilian population. 

As I said, I think it would be right for the President to issue this instruction to the Military Prosecutorĺs Office.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I will issue this instruction of course. The prosecutors should indeed investigate all such cases. We are talking here about the fate of our citizens, for whom we are responsible. All crimes committed must therefore be documented as thoroughly as possible and analysed as thoroughly as possible right up to bringing criminal charges against the specific perpetrators of these acts.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Dmitry Anatolyevich, as far as the humanitarian situation goes, I saw the work the Emergency Situations Ministry and the local services are doing. They have already set up a field hospital and have begun their work. Surgeons are already at work there and doctors are providing medical assistance. They are performing operations right there, in the field.

A second field hospital is ready to be set up on South Ossetian territory, and this will go ahead as soon the situation allows, to provide assistance to the civilian population and the military personnel engaged in these military operations.

But what is most worrying at the moment is the situation of civilians, who face very difficult circumstances now in Tskhinvali. The situation is difficult in South Ossetia in general but it is particularly serious in Tskhinvali. People there have sought refuge in basements. We spoke with South Ossetia just a few hours ago and learned that people have not been able to come out for several days now. They have no water. There is no water supply at all. They had one source of drinking water but it has broken down now. The only solution has been to have armoured vehicles bring water in.

I can confirm the words you rightly used to describe this situation and say that it is indeed a humanitarian disaster in the most literal sense.

But we are ready to provide large-scale assistance as soon as the necessary conditions are in place. Several tons of medicines have already been sent to the area and we are ready to deliver more, as much as is needed, if required.

Most of the refugees have been taken in by relatives. Some of them are being housed in former pioneer camps, sanatoriums and schools.

Incidentally, this is also a problem for North Ossetia, because school buildings need to be used for their proper purpose. The new school year will begin on September 1, which is not far off now. This situation places an added burden on the republic and the Government has therefore decided, as we agreed, to make additional funds totalling more than 500 million roubles available to the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, including for dealing with the refugee situation. I spoke about this too when I met with the republicĺs leadership.

As for the situation in South Ossetia, the housing stock in Tskhinvali and the settlements along the border have Ĺsuffered damageĺ, to put it mildly. Practically everything has been destroyed.

In order to help people return to their home towns and villages, we will therefore need to help them rebuild their homes and apartments. As we agreed, the Government has drawn up a programme in accordance. We first need to establish the scale of the destruction, though it is already clear that we are looking at colossal damage, but in this first stage ľ and we have already worked this through with the Finance Ministry ľ I think it possible to make at least 10 billion roubles available for reconstruction needs.

We are ready to increase this sum if need be, but this would need to be based on a serious analysis of the real situation as far as reconstruction is concerned.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Let us take all the necessary decisions for this work.

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